Game of Thrones: The Rains of Castamere

As a book reader, the reactions to this infamous episode of Game of Thrones, “Rains Of Castamere,” have been fascinating. People were outraged, horrified, delightedly surprised and blown away. Friends called me in shock, grieving for their favourite characters. Obviously the Red Wedding was an incredible plot twist and a really ballsy move by George R. R. Martin. And the TV series pulled it off beautifully because they focused heavily on Robb’s story and his romantic journey for the last two seasons. None of the viewers appeared to see this coming!

It actually feels like this episode shook people more than the epic penultimate episode from Season One where Ned Stark lost his head. I’m wondering why? For me, Ned’s death shook the entire Game of Thrones universe and completely changed how I viewed the story. He wasn’t just a main character; he was THE main character – the primary hero, the strongest point of view and the guy everyone was rooting for. When he was eliminated, I was blown away and it became clear to me that no one was safe. When I read the Red Wedding, it had a huge impact on me, but I wasn’t completely shocked. I knew that people could die and they would. So I was emotionally prepared. I’m wondering whether the dramatic structure of the TV series played out differently for non-book viewers?

Anyway that’s enough pondering for now. Let’s get to what actually happened in the episode:

Across the Narrow Sea

I was a little underwhelmed by Dany’s plot in this episode. She conquered an entire city, but it played out too quickly with a few cheesy, badly choreographed battle scenes. And the meat of her story was basically that three men are fighting over her. Ser Barristan is sworn to protect Dany as her Queensguard, but gets mopey when he’s left behind during the stealth attack on Yunkai. He wants to prove he’s not too old to be the big hero. Ser Jorah is silently raging against Dany’s new Harlequin crush Daario Naharis, trying to paint him as an untrustworthy scoundrel. Daario is pulling out all the sexy stops to woo the Mother of Dragons, charming her with his politically correct views. “I have no interest in slaves. A man cannot make love to property.” Oh Daario stop! (Insert girlish giggle.) Grey Worm is the only man there without another agenda. That dude is awesome!

Daario outlines a plan for he, Jorah and Grey Worm to sneak into the city through a secret entrance, kill the guards and open the gates for the rest of the army to enter. The plan goes off well – with a few minor hitches – and Yunkai now belongs to Dany. As soon as the army breached the city, the Yunkai slaves threw down their weapons and surrendered. Good move. Why the hell would they fight for masters who aren’t paying them when a pretty lady shows up with promises of freedom?!?

Dany is WAY too relieved that Daario survived the battle unscathed and Jorah is WAY too miffed that she cares.

Bran Stark / Jon Snow (So close to a reunion … and yet so far!)

The Wildings stake out an old man, who breeds horses for the Night’s Watch and devise a plan to kill him and steal his horses. Jon Snow suggests they stick to stealing and get out of the murder business. Careful Jon, your crow is starting to show! When they won’t be dissuaded, Jon warns the old man of their arrival by ‘accidentally’ banging his sword against a stone while the group is running towards his hut. The horses are spooked, the old man is alerted to the Wildings presence, and he has time to get away.

Bran and his rag-tag group arrive near The Wall – where the land is basically deserted because the Night’s Watch can’t handle the influx of Wildlings sneaking over the wall and raiding villages. When the weather turns nasty, they take shelter in an abandoned watchtower but poor Hodor is terrified of thunder and starts loudly ‘Hodor-ing’.

Jon’s Wilding party rides right up beside Bran’s tower in pursuit of the old man and Orell hears noises from inside. Desperate to calm Hodor down, Bran accidentally jumps into his body and puts him to sleep. Well that’s a new trick! The Wildings below brush off the noises as thunder, but Jojen wants Bran to try out his Warg superpowers with the direwolves who are prowling around outside.

By this time the Wildings have surrounded the old man and Orell demands that Jon slit his throat to prove his loyalty. Jon hesitates a little too much and Ygritte kills the old man with an arrow. The Wildings turn on Jon and he starts stabbing and slashing. Ygritte panics and tries to protect him but Tormund holds her down. “You’re not going to die for one of them.” As Jon is fighting, Bran finally gets his mojo on and sics Summer and Shaggydog on the Wildings. At least that’s what it looked like, but I’m a little confused because I thought he could only wolf walk inside one beast at a time. In the chaos, Jon kills Orell and escapes on a horse, leaving a flabbergasted Ygritte behind.

Bran decides to split up his band of merry men – tasking Osha with getting Rickon to safety with the Umber family, while he Jojen and Meera continue their bizarre quest for the three eyed raven North of the Wall. Rickon actually strings three sentences together in a row as he begs to stay with his brother. Red Wedding aside, that may be the most shocking thing that happened this episode. I think that’s more lines than that poor kid has had this entire series.

The Northern Army

In some subtle foreshadowing of the horror to come, Robb mended his strained relationship with his mother by asking her advice about his battle plans. Was his plan to storm Casterly Rock too risky? If the Lannisters sent reinforcements from King’s Landing, the Northern Army could be caught in a death trap before they reached their destination. Robb referenced his blunder with Theon and admitted to Catelyn that he should have heeded her advice. Catelyn was the one who warned him not to send Theon to the Iron Islands to negotiate with his father. If Robb had listened, Winterfell would still be standing and Bran and Rickon would be alive (which they are, but Robb doesn’t know that). Catelyn endorsed Robb’s plan to teach the Lannisters a lesson and “show them how it feels to lose what they love”. Ugh. When you know what’s coming … that’s a pretty depressing statement.

When he arrives at the Twins, Robb begins kissing Frey ass, apologizing to a comically haggard line-up of miserable looking girls for slighting them. Walder is still cantankerous – claiming he’s over it – but baiting Robb by ‘inspecting’ Talisa and making some less than gentlemanly remarks about her. “Your king says he betrayed me for love. I say he betrayed me for firm tits and a tight fit.”

At the wedding ceremony – as the mystery bride floats down the aisle, shrouded in a veil – Edmure looks like he’s attending his own funeral until Walder reveals his daughter’s face and … holy hell she’s a stealth hottie! Suddenly Edmure can’t wait for the bedding ceremony. This girl wasn’t in the unfortunate looking line-up of women Walder presented when they first arrived. Was Walder just trying to f*ck with them? Testing Edmure to see if he’d back out of the deal for fear of an ugly wife?

Once the “I Dos” are through, the revelry begins in earnest. It feels as though a huge bubble of tension has burst and the Starks and Tullys are finally able to relax. Brynden is drinking happily, Catelyn is actually smiling, Edmure is over the moon and Robb is laughing and flirting openly with his wife. Talisa announces that if she gives birth to a boy, she’ll name him Eddard. Everything’s going well, which should have been the first indication that something was about to go horribly wrong.

After the bedding ceremony, Catelyn becomes uneasy when she notices a few strange things: guards closing the doors to the hall, and the string section playing inappropriate music. Then, just as Walder interrupts the party to announce he’s giving Robb a proper wedding gift, Catelyn discovers that Roose Bolton is wearing hidden chainmail. She slaps Roose and screams for Robb, but it’s too late. The Stark army is locked in a room with their new enemies, and without any weapons. It’s a massacre. Talisa is stabbed repeatedly in the stomach, Robb gets knifed by Roose Bolton who tells him, “The Lannisters send their regards,” and Catelyn’s throat is slit after a failed attempt to save her son. It’s definitely awful, but I never really got attached to Robb or Catelyn so I’m thrilled by the gutsy storytelling rather than upset about their deaths.

The truly heartbreaking part for me is that Arya was SO CLOSE to making it back to her mother’s arms. The Hound brought her right to the gate, pretending to be a hog farmer delivering food. But the slaughter started and Arya watched in horror as her brother’s direwolf has killed with a crossbow and his men were attacked from all sides. She tried to run inside anyway, but The Hound knocked her out and slung her over his shoulder to escape. Arya is one of the characters I AM desperately attached to and I really wanted that reunion for her. So sad. Earlier in the episode, as she and the hound journeyed to the Twins, she kept staring at the camp with desperation. The Hound called her out on her worst fears. “You’re almost there and you’re afraid you won’t make it.” And she didn’t.

Odds and Ends, and Random Ponderings

– Sam and Gilly reach The Wall and she’s blown away by the vista. She also thinks Sam is a wizard because he can read.
– Arya doesn’t like to kill innocent old men, but she has no problem knocking them on the head with blunt instruments.
– There’s still value in the Frey’s breeding with the Tullys so they can lay claim to Riverrun … but what was the point in Walder giving Edmure his prettiest daughter? Just a private joke he could laugh about before the slaughter began?

Photo Courtesy of HBO

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